Another trip into the archives. Tillie Feather was both a dancer and a gymnast and a pure joy to work with.
Devonn is the grand-daughter of one of my best friends, Dawn, who was also the best friend of my late daughter, Aisling, so she is very special to me.
As well as being a very beautiful young girl, Devonn is fierce on the football field and destined for a great career in her chosen sport.
She was just fourteen years old when she first came to the studio for a photograph session with her friend, Emma. (Teenyboppers) I was keen to shoot with her again and she proved to be a very responsive and intuitive model. I’m sure we’ll work together again one day when the Covid clouds roll back.
This is Ticket to Ride, one of my more successful images in my early days of competing. It was accepted into Salons in twelve different countries and won a Gold Medal, a Silver Medal and an Honourable Mention. It’s a composite image; nearly every element in it was placed there by me, including the ticket in her hat. I worked hard on the final overlays to blend the tones. I should be very proud of it, but it makes my eyes bleed to look at it.
Why? Because the perspective is completely wrong.
I shot the model at a group night, in the days before I hired my own model, where you had to dive in for a few minutes to take your turn, no input into pose, costume etc. I was happy enough at the time. The model, Kelli Smith, knew what she was doing and the studio owner excelled at lighting.
It was only when I came to put it all together that I fell flat on my face. I had the photographs of the railway station already, so
all I had to do was cut out Kelli from the stool she’d been sitting on and pop her on the bench. Right?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you look closely, it appears that Kelli’s legs would have been about six feet long to have been in that position. And it’s all down to perspective.
I was looking down on Kelli when I photographed her, using (probably) an 85mm portrait lens. I shot the railway station at eye level with a 50mm lens. To get the perspective right, I should have shot both pictures in exactly the same circumstances – bent knee, same distance, same lens, same lighting etc. OK, same lighting can be difficult but that’s adjustable in Photoshop.
And, finally, shadows – they’re all over the place. I’ve learnt a lot since then and still learning all the time.
But, hey, two medals and an HM – I’ll take that.
I met Gail Noble through a multi-photographer / multi model day and was instantly impressed by her unique ability to lose herself completely in a character.
We went on to do a couple of shoots after that where we could explore different ideas, aided by the fact that she is also a very talented seamstress, able to create her own costumes, as in the portrait of Gail posing as Queen Victoria. The background to Her Majesty is an interior shot from Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.
We has fun with Stand and Deliver, making full use of a wind machine, although I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me she’s holding the knife in he wrong way. She looked pretty determined to me so I wasn’t going to argue with her! All I did to this one was add a few trees and a bit of mist.
Fear Not the Dark was taken at the initial shoot mentioned above and is a (nearly) straight shot, only needed the addition of a flame in the lamp.
Heaven, Saturday morning
Angel number 4501 is summoned to His Presence, or HP, as he likes to be called.
“I have an important job for you, 4501. There’s a music festival tomorrow in Everyman’s Park.”
HP’s magnificent voice rolls out, setting clouds, cherubim and seraphim a-tremble. A few feathers shiver and fall off 4501’s wings.
“I was very upset at the amount of sin that went on at the last one – drugs, blasphemy and …” HP lowers his voice and the Heavens still. “… you know, s-e-x that went on.”
4501’s heart leapt in anticipation.
The celestial voice rumbles on. “It will be your mission to point out the error of their ways to these young people, put their feet on a new and better path.”
OK. So it’s Mission Impossible, but I’m going to a music festival.
“Of course, HP. An honour to be chosen. In what guise shall I descend?”
A rock star? A Hell’s Angel? Oh please, not a groupie.
“You will temporarily take over the body of an ice cream salesman called Kevin.”
HP taps his foot and watches as 4501 plummets to earth, his heavenly raiment already changing to jeans and a Nirvana tee-shirt.
Hell, Saturday morning
His Satanic Highness kneels on the backs of two recently arrived politicians, his backside bare and pulsating with inner evil. A ring of hellfire encircles them, holding back a legion of imps and fiends with singed hair and blistered skin.
“Kiss my arse!” roars HSH. “A day back on earth for whoever braves the flames and kisses my royal arse.”
None are brave enough to risk self imolation until Black Bart steps forward. Seven feet tall, once a grave robber and now an upper level demon, he’s been a thorn in HSH’s side ever since he fell into an open grave and drowned in the seepage.
One almighty leap and he’s through the hellfire, skin smouldering and bubbling, smoke seeping from all his orifices.
Bending at the knee, he kisses the putrefying buttocks before him.
Beelzebub, as he likes to be called when dealing with the Damned, rears up and points upwards, searing a hole through the charcoal-blackened vaults.
“Go, Lulu, enjoy your day.”
Black Bart only has time to say, “Lulu? What the f–” before he vanishes in a swirl of silk and Chanel No 5.
His Presence watches the materialisation of the ravishing young woman, her modesty barely covered in wisps of green silk.
“You’ve outdone yourself this week, Lucifer.” He prefers the old names to all this high-falutin’ Royal Highness stuff.
The Devil laughs. “Kevin the ice cream seller won’t stand a chance. Shall I make the first move?”
The two deities settle down to their weekly game of Celestial Chess.
Lulu basks under the hot sun and a thought pops into her mind.
I’d kill for an ice cream.
After listening to Boris on the television tonight I think it’s time for a little light relief and these pictures have always brought a smile to my face.
It was very much a family affair which meant everyone was relaxed. Martyn (left) is Hannah’s dad and Mason (right) is Hannah’s partner.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, we watched a lot of old films on television, including Sunset Boulevard, starring the wonderful Gloria Swanson. It’s one of my all-time favourites and I had it firmly in mind while making the photograph below. The model, who I only ever knew as Peaches, was perfect for what I wanted and this somewhat unconventional portrait – Faded Dreams – became one of my favourites.
Back in the days when we could go out and about without a care in the world, I had a three hour studio session booked with Hannah, my favourite model (and also my grand-daughter). I had quite a few different scenarios in my mind and decided to buy a dress off eBay for some of them. My eyes lit on this beautiful red dress with multi-frills on the skirt, a nipped in waist and a sprinkling of sparkles. Perfect! I just knew it would look fantastic on Hannah (I was right) and ordered it. Imagine my horror when it arrived in an A4 envelope, the material was nearly as thin as tissue paper and the whole thing was crushed beyond recognition.
When I tell you that I haven’t used an iron in over thirty years, you can understand why my first impulse was to throw it in the bin and put it down to experience. However, I set the ironing board up (well, Jan set it up. I didn’t know how to do it.) and spent a whole afternoon pressing the creases out of it. On the way to the studio, the dress had two seats all to itself as I was paranoid about it getting creased again.
Anyway, it photographed beautifully and I was delighted with the results. I still have quite a few frames from the day to work on so, hopefully, if my photographic mojo ever comes back I’ll revisit them.
The dress? I left it at the studio for another model to wear on another day. And I haven’t touched an iron since.
Left: Don’t Look Back. Right: The Party’s Over.
It seems appropriate for the last pictures of the year to be in monochrome. We’ve had to face a lot of hard facts in 2020 and can only hope that 2021 will be kinder to us – a vaccine that will shield a lot of vulnerable people, an end to the interminable wrangling over Brexit and the hope of being able to hug our loved ones sooner rather than later.
Anyway, the pictures. I have very different memories of these two images. Simon was in reflective mood, strumming his guitar and the studio was quiet. I only took about a dozen frames, something I regret but it was nearly at the end of a long session and we were all tired.
Jay, on the other hand, was very upbeat, full of energy and miming to Hold Back the River which was blasting out of the speakers. The lights either side of him were red and blue but, for some reason, I chose to process this one in monochrome. I have hundreds of shots from this session so perhaps I’ll take another look at them in the quiet days ahead.
It’s been a long time since I did any work in Photoshop and Lightroom, so I spent a pleasant afternoon yesterday on this studio portrait from just over a year ago at Studio 3 by Severn. It helped that the sun was shining briefly and for a short period of time I could imagine I was indoors by choice.